Duma passes bill allowing Russians to hoist national flag

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Moscow, Oct 15 (UNI) State Duma, the lower house of parliament, approved a bill today allowing organisations and individuals to hoist the national flag, a privilege earlier officially enjoyed only by the state.

Before the new law was passed by the State Duma, the use of the national flag by ordinary citizens, including at international sports events and on houses, was technically a criminal offence.

However, the ban was never actually observed or enforced.

The authors of the law said it would promote patriotic sentiment.

''There are moments in life when you want everybody to know that you are a citizen of a great nation, a Russian citizen,'' Oleg Valenchuk, a lawmaker of the pro-Kremlin United Russia faction, said.

''I believe the Russian flag carried by an ordinary person is a more striking and genuine manifestation of patriotism than state banners in many civil servants' offices,'' Mr Valenchuk said.

The State Duma also approved amendments to mitigate punishment for the desecration of the national flag and other state symbols.

The punishment - a fine of 300-500 roubles (about 11-19 dollar) for ordinary individuals and 500-1,000 roubles (about 19-38 dollar) for officials - will be only applied to violations committed during formal events.

Previously, the law stipulated three months to two years in prison as punishment for desecrating the national flag and other state symbols.

The Duma also approved amendments allowing the use of the terms 'Russian Federation' and 'Russia,' and their derivates in private firms' names, a right earlier enjoyed only by state-controlled enterprises.

UNI XC PD CS1910

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